I feel Robert Novak’s pain. Like journalism’s Prince of Darkness, I too cursed while on the air and found myself similarly forced to issue an embarrassing and widely written about public apology.
Whereas Novak, whose 2003 column outed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and whose carelessly-scheduled, $600-a-ticket political forum caused me to cancel my own eponymously-named (and potentially far more interesting) political forum (see earlier post), was kicked off CNN for using a barnyard epithet (okay, okay, he said “bullshit”), I was banned from my local supermarket for yelling the same word into a microphone at one of their registers and for broadcasting the same word (okay, okay, I said “fucking bullshit” but it’s the basically same thing) to all the shoppers who happened to be in the store at the time. And, since I'd accidentally turned up the volume, to the dozen or so elderly people waiting at a senior shuttle bus stop on the sidewalk outside.
I can’t speak for Bob Novak (my voice isn't nearly that gravelly and I can’t quite capture the hint of malice that seems to come so easily to him) and I really have no idea why he unraveled so quickly and petulantly on “Inside Politics”. As for me, all I can tell you is I needed to go to the bathroom pretty bad and when I was finally able to work my way to the back of the store (the place was pretty crowded, not to mention slow-moving), I discovered the bathroom door was locked. I started banging away at the door and yelling and when the manager approached, I told him what the problem was. He nodded and said quite politely that someone was obviously in the bathroom but that I could use the facilities when they were vacant.
Well, things get kind of hazy for me at this point (most of what I remember I’ve had to piece together from several eyewitness accounts as well as a pretty detailed police report) but I believe what happened next was I must have started walking away (no surprise, since I tend to be fairly scared of direct confrontation) and must have muttered something under my breath along the lines of, “Oh yeah? Well, I think you’re kind of vacant.”
I don’t know why I said it. It wasn’t a particularly clever line and my friends tell me I’m generally capable of much better retorts. All I can think is I must have really, really had to go to the bathroom and the pressure got to me. But as I told the judge a few weeks later, there really was no excuse for my behavior. It was just totally uncalled for on my part. I mean, obviously the manager guy was just doing his job and he was only, like, 23 or something.
In any case, the manager did a good job of keeping his cool and told me that what I’d said was “a little bit rude and kind of unnecessary” and like I said, I really wasn’t in a position to argue with him. But I did anyway. And that’s when I told him that I thought his produce sucked. He sighed and told me that it was entirely within my rights to hold that opinion but that he held an entirely different opinion, namely that his produce most decidedly didn’t suck. Well, one thing led very quickly to another and the next thing I know a couple of store goons (okay, they were from the butchery department so they weren't so much "goons" as "goon-like") are dragging me out of the store kicking and screaming and I’m pretty much grabbing at anything I can to slow them down or just generally make it harder for them to get me out of there. Anyway, as I'm flailing around, I happen to get a decent grip on the microphone and… well, that, unfortunately, is when the “fucking bullshit” thing popped out of my mouth.
As I think you can tell, I’m actually very sorry about the whole incident. "Filled with remorse" is how I think I put it. And not just because I can’t shop at that supermarket any more without putting on a wig, a fake nose and really thick makeup. Though I suppose that is a way for Bob Novak to go if he really, really wants back on CNN. Speaking just for myself, it really wouldn’t affect how I feel about his many and varied political insights. Not one bit.